Founder and President
Fred Kent is a leading authority on revitalizing city spaces and one of the foremost thinkers in livability, smart growth and the future of the city. As founder and president of Project for Public Spaces, he is known throughout the world as a dynamic speaker and prolific ideas man. Traveling over 150,000 miles each year, Fred offers technical assistance to communities and gives major talks across North America and internationally. Each year, he and the PPS staff give presentations or train more than 10,000 people in Placemaking techniques. Over the past 37 years, Fred has worked on hundreds of projects, including Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square in New York City; Discovery Green in Houston, TX; Campus Martius in Detroit, MI; Main Street in Littleton, NH; Granville Island in Vancouver, BC, Canada; and a City-Wide Placemaking Campaign in Chicago, IL. In addition to projects, Fred has led trainings across the world for audiences such as the Urban Redevelopment Agency and the National Parks Board in Singapore, representatives from the City of Hong Kong, the Ministry of Environment in Norway, the leading Dutch transportation organization in the Netherlands, Greenspace in Scotland, UK, numerous transportation professionals from US State DOTs, and thousands of community and neighborhood groups across the US.
Before founding PPS, Fred studied with Margaret Mead and worked with William H. Whyte on the Street Life Project, assisting in observations and film analysis of corporate plazas, urban streets, parks and other open spaces in New York City. The research resulted in the now classic, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, published in 1980, which laid out conclusions based on decades of meticulous observation and documentation of human behavior in the urban environment. In 1968, Fred founded the Academy for Black and Latin Education (ABLE), a street academy for high school dropouts. In 1970, and again in 1990, Fred was the coordinator and chairman of New York City’s Earth Day.
Most recently, Fred has lead some of the largest projects at PPS including Cape Town Waterfront, Crystal City in Alexandria, VA., Museumplein in Amsterdam, Downtown Detroit, Harvard University’s main plaza, and Harvard Square for Cambridge and Harvard. He is also overseeing major projects with Southwest Airlines as part of the Heart of the Community campaign. A recent partnership between PPS, UN Habitat, and The Ax:son Johnson Foundation has resulted in a global campaign (The Future of Places) and the establishment of a Placemaking Leadership Council (600+ members) aimed at bringing Placemaking to countries around the world. Fred has also been intimately involved with the expansion of Placemaking into a global agenda, helping to achieve a level of international engagement that rivals other major international development efforts. With close to 75,000 people around the world following the work of PPS through emails, Twitter and Facebook, he has witnessed interest in Placemaking grow exponentially.
Fred has taken over half a million photographs of public spaces and their users, which have appeared in exhibits, publications and articles.
Columbia University, Bachelor of Arts in Economics
Columbia University, Graduate Program in Urban Geography
Presentations and Workshops
A highly sought after speaker, Fred has been presenting around the globe for decades. Some recent keynotes and workshops include:
- Transit-Oriented Los Angeles Conference, Urban Land Institute, Los Angeles, CA
- InDevelopment Event Keynote, Appleton, WI
- Museumplein Training, Placemaking Plus & Stipo, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- World Class Sustainable Cities Conference, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Atlanta ULI Livable Communities Meeting, Urban Land Institute, Atlanta, GA
- Placemaking Leadership Council Meeting Keynote, Pittsburgh, PA
- FutureOfPlace Conference Keynote, AxSon Johson FOundation, UN Habitat, Buenos Aires, Argentina
- 2014 Living Ethics Speaker Series, Bon Secours, Richmond, VA
- Idaho Housing and Finance Association’s Keynote Luncheon, Coeur d’Alene, ID
- CDA2030 Workshop, Coeur d’Alene, ID
- Los Altos History Museum Placemaking Workshop, Los Altos, CA
- Arq.Futuro Conference, São Paulo, Brazil
- Brazilian Placemaking Leadership Council, São Paulo, Brazil
- Aspen Streets Workshop, Aspen, CO
- Primacy of Place Conference, Ball State University, Indianapolis, IN
- Downtown San Diego Partnership Workshop, San Diego, CA
- 2013 Oregon Main Street Conference, State Department of Historic Preservation, Astoria, OR
- Placemaking: Building the Social Landscape Conference, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
- Missouri Main Street Connection Downtown Revitalization Workshop, Cape Girardeau, MO